Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tower of Terror 10-Miler!

Yes, you read that right.  We ran a TEN MILE RACE.



As some of you know, Colin and I are training for the Disney Half Marathon in January.  For some extra challenge (and a bit of a reality check, I suppose), we signed up to run the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler!

We made or way over to Paul's house Friday night (the 28th) and hung with Paul, Josh, and Jess.  We saw Loni Love at the Improv, and she was sooo funny!

The next morning, we got up and made the familiar trek to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the health and fitness expo and to pick up our packets.  This would be my sixth runDisney race, as I ran the 5k race over Marathon Weekend in 2009, 2011, and 2012, the Royal Family 5k in 2012, and the Expedition Everest 5k Challenge in 2012.  We really enjoyed exploring the expo, and bought numerous goodies ( Note to self: I swear, you can't bring Paul (or me) anywhere that resembles a state fair, for we will be soon parted with mucho dinero.)

Colin found a vendor with snarky and witty shirts. I will buy these one day:

We had a big and healthy lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, and then hung out the rest of the day.  I began to get nervous for the ten miles that lay ahead of us, and I was even more concerned with the dreaded "SWEEPER VAN."  It's no secret that runDisney has a sweeper van, which picks up runners that aren't keeping the required 16-minute pace, and brings them to the finish.  They get no medal, no glory, and plenty of embarrassment.  It was my worst fear that I would be picked up by the sweeper van.  Paul and Colin tried to assure me 19328 times that we'd be fine, we've trained for 4 months, blah blah blah...but I was so scared!

We got dressed in our awesome outfits, and headed to Port Orleans - Riverside to park and take the bus to MGM. (I don't care how long ago the name changed to Hollywood Studios.  It will always be MGM.  Deal with it.)  We rolled into the holding area around 8pm for our 10pm start.  There was a DJ encouraging everyone to dance as a way to warm up, and we had a blast! Check out the outfits (I made our shirts and my skirt) and dance moves. We rock - for white people.

Please excuse the Brightroom logos over some pictures. I'm in the process of deciding which, if any, we want to purchase.

Colin's shirt is an elevator floor indicator that goes to floor 13 with "GOING UP?" written underneath.  I have "BOO!" and Paul has a Mickey. I made my skirt to look like those Sparkle Shirts, which I envy, but don't feel like spending $40 for when I can make it myself. I think I'm pretty crafty! 

At 9:15, we made the march to the corrals, and I freaked out a lot.  I saw some funny signs like "You thought they said RUM, didn't you!?" and "Chuck Norris never ran a ten mile race!"  Those made me chuckle. 

We were in Corral D, the last corral to leave, since we were forecast to take the longest. We were joined with approximately 3,500 of our closest friends, some of which can be seen here:

 After the traditional fireworks start, we were off!!!!

We headed out the entrance to MGM and then up.......a......highway ramp.  Oh my goodness. You don't realize how steep and never-ending those things are until you are running up one!  I wanted to give up after we got to the top.  I quickly realized I would be facing one of the biggest physical challenges of my life in this race, and the training I had so diligently completed would not be enough. I had never run outside, up hills, and at 85 degrees with 90% humidity.  That's no joke, folks. I've since read some blogs where even the most seasoned vets of distance races said it was the worst conditions they've raced in their lives.

The intervals we had planned and were used to from our training went out the window.  It quickly became "run to the next street light, walk the next one, run to the next one."  We were also joined by a wonderful lady named Belinda, who became the "Hitchhiking Ghost" to our "Ghoulish Trio."  We were glad to have her!!

We ran from MGM to the toll plaza at Animal Kingdom, and made a turn back the way we came to head to Wide World of Sports.  Around Mile 5, we entered WWS, and it was a trail run.  It was in the dark, over rocks and pebbles.  I am not the most graceful person alive, and I was nervous about falling. We then resumed our "run to the next light" mantra, and at Mile 6, the pacers (darn those pacers), said we were 45 seconds behind pace, and the next mile marker was a hard cut off, meaning if you weren't at Mile 7 by a certain time, we wouldn't finish.  I told Colin, Paul, and Belinda to go ahead. I was done.  I was hot, grossly sweaty, exhausted, and just plain old done. They said "WE WILL NOT LEAVE WITHOUT YOU!!" and suddenly I felt more like a Marine than a teacher!
One cool aspect of running through WWS was we got to run around the baseball stadium where the Atlanta Braves train.  We saw a race photographer and pretended to be happy:

 ...but inside, I was a wreck.  I just had enough and wanted to quit.  I would have, if Colin, Paul, and Belinda weren't there with me!

At the exit to WWS, there were a few volunteers, and one of which heard us encouraging each other and he grabbed my had and ran with me for a few hundred feet.  I never got your name, but thank you, sir!

We saw Mile 7 in the distance, and no sweeper van was in sight in front of us!!!!  The official clock read "2:15:15" as we crossed Mile 7, thus being able to finish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We looked back, and FIFTEEN SECONDS LATER, they made the hard cut!  If it wasn't for the pushing my three and the random volunteer gave me, I would have caused my group to not finish.  I would have been beside myself.

When we realized we could crawl to the finish and still get medals, we took it a bit easier. I knew I had a mammoth blister working on my right little toe, and running wouldn't be the most comfortable thing ever.

We finally crossed mile 8, then, MILE 9! We were back in MGM!!  We came in via the backlot, and then up to the Streets of New York, which were all but deserted.  Remember, we were probably among the last 200 to finish out of a field of more than 10,000.  The cheer squad had long forgotten about us.... or so I thought.

This lady is in many runDisney Facebook albums. In fact, I "borrowed" this image from a previous race album someone had on facebook. When I saw her at mile 9.5 during the race, I broke down in tears because she was there, alone, cheering us stragglers on. I told her I saw her on the albums and how much she inspired me and she teared up, too.

I never got her name, but I want her to know she helped get me through to the finish.


We looped around to run in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat, and they had a huge track for us to run on, and a DJ right near, blasting tunes.  People were roped off, waiting for the race to finish so the party could start, and as soon as we saw them, Paul said "We gotta do this.  We gotta run. They're cheering us on!!" We picked up the pace, and the crowd roared - for us!!!!  Belinda mentioned that it pays to be in the last group, since more people are there to cheer FOR YOU!

One more funny sign was waved: "THE END IS NEAR!"  I cannot tell you what a relief that was!

We crossed the finish line, holding hands, 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 8 seconds after we started.

 I am so proud of us.  We set out to achieve this goal, and we did! We may not have had a stellar time, but hey, we finished before 300 people, and 1,500 didn't finish!

I now know in my heart that I can do anything I set my mind to. While I know I won't be the fastest, as the shirt said "First or's the same finish line!"

Now, on to training for the half!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm running a half marathon!! Huh...wha??

So, I've officially decided to run a half marathon. Yes, me. Yes, the kid who was always last during the dreaded "President's Fitness Challenge" required annual mile in PE. Yes, the person who swore she'd never run/walk more than a 5k.

My friend, Jenn, inspired me to tackle this lofty goal. She put her mind to it, made healthy life choices, and successfully ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January. I've decided to make the leap and do it, too.

(*My REAL rationale is if Al Roker can do it, why can't I? ... but I digress......)

Colin and I have begun using the Galloway Method at the gym, and we've had success so far. I'll keep you informed as to how it goes.

Officially, on our "team," Colin and I will be running with Katie, Melissa, and Paul. We're always open to more people joining us!

Oh, and if the half wasn't enough, I figured I'd throw in a 10-mile race in September. I'm either a genius or lunatic - probably a mix of both!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My First Love

Last summer, I attempted to do a 30-day challenge where I would write each day for 30 days. Knowing me, you know that turned out like crap and I didn’t finish.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how to tackle the delicate subject of “my first love.” I mean, I knew about whom I would be writing, I just struggled with a way to eloquently string it together so it could even approach explaining the profound impact of the love we shared - and continue to share.

I met my first love, Paul Zagorksi, in Math for Liberal Arts at the University of South Florida in August of 2005. I was not expecting to find anything interesting about that class, taught by the goofy Karol MacIntosh. I sat next to a red-headed guy who seemed personable and someone I could pass the time with. We talked before and after class, and the talks got longer and longer. Once, we ended up on a bench talking for three hours after class, only realizing it when it was dark outside. We seemed to have everything in common and something just “clicked.” We get each other in every way; it's as simple as that.

He asked me to be his girlfriend at the Magic Kingdom during the fireworks on September 18, 2005, after a wonderful day at Disney. I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World since coming to college, and I was so happy to have found someone who loved Disney as much, if not more, than I did.

The first picture we ever took: in the front of Spaceship Earth

Being silly at MGM

The first picture as an official couple :-)

We loved traveling to his family’s cabin in Sylva, North Carolina. We spent Spring Break of 2006 up there and explored the area of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I spent Thanksgiving 2006 with his family there. I’m so clumsy, his mom constantly reminded me to NOT TOUCH THE CUTCO KNIVES! Shortly after the gingerbread house pictures were taken, I drew blood with a Cutco spatula. I can’t be helped, apparently!

At a waterfall in North Carolina

Just before my drawing-blood-with-a-spatula incident!

In December 2006, after Paul did much soul-searching, he realized he needed to come out of the closet, and I can’t say it was easy – for either of us. I was so completely in love with him that I didn’t want to see that we wouldn’t have a future as a couple, even though all signs had been pointing that direction for some time. I had blinders on. It was difficult to be around him for a few months after he came out – it was like rubbing salt in a wound. Here was this amazing guy, that I imagined spending my life with, and we couldn't be together. I needed some space.

One of the greatest things about love is its ability to change. We reconnected in another class, and resumed a relationship as a real-life “Will and Grace.” One of my brothers in Alpha Phi Omega told me “you realize that Grace is still in love with Will, right?” That struck a chord with me and I realized that I was still in love with Paul, but not in a romantic way. I loved every part of him, just not as a partner.

We’ve continued to enjoy all things Disney, and we’ve acquired great friends because of our mutual loves of Disney, like Rich, Ann, Nic, Jer, Summer, and Lara, who are in pictures below. We’ve shared so many good times with these crazy people, and we wouldn’t have met them without Disney!

Meeting new friends!! Front Jerrame and Summer, Back Nic, Lara, Mickey, me, and Paul

Being silly in the front of the Monorail, back when you could ride with the driver.

A better picture of us on the way to dinner in China at Epcot to finish off another one of our whirl-wind days at Disney World!

We're never ones to pass up looking like complete and total fools for a fun memory!

My mom has this picture framed at their house!

Continuing the "Pose with EVERY Wooden Indian" tradition I started in England.

My graduation celebration goes Disney! Front Phil and Katie, back Mom, Melissa, Paul, Vanessa, me, and Colin

Paul, Katie, and me being silly at Epcot, Chirstmas 2008

Great friends at the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, November 2010. Paul, me, Colin, Ann, and Rich.

Paul and me acting "French" at Epcot while he completed his 23rd birthday scavenger hunt! August, 2009

Rocking our bug eyes for It's Tough to be a Bug! at Animal Kingdom.

After an awesome Pirates Fireworks Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, June 2011

Paul and my dad on Space Mountain. He's such a goofball.

Paul and me, "mid-sneeze" on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Acting "off" on Space Mountain

Making history!!! We took part in the first-ever all-night party at the Magic Kingdom to celebrate "One More Disney Day" on Leap Day, 2012! We left at 3:29am.

Paul and I have continued to make each other laugh, held each other while we cried, and had experiences everywhere in between. We’ve traveled to every state in New England but one (silly Vermont!) in one day, we’ve seen Broadway shows (and weaseled our way on to a Broadway stage!), and we’ve been all over North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We drove the entire eastern seaboard in 2007. We helped the Disney Dream have a successful inaugural season in 2011 with a fantastic weekend cruise to the Bahamas on a brand-new ship.

Paul and I have made it to the "Il Bacio Wall of Fame" in Danbury!

Us with Grandma Jeanne in New York City, after we saw "Wicked" together. It was a fabulous trip: we stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria and saw two Broadway shows!

Paul as my date to the Alpha Phi Omega formal, Spring 2007.

Will and Grace at Pass-a-Grille Beach for sunset, 2010

Catching our reflection in the ceiling of PINK, a bar on the Disney Dream

Paul's friend, Patrick, caught us in all our glory at the mini golf course on the Dream.

Best friends on a wonderful cruise!

On Castaway Cay, Bahamas, with the Disney Dream in the background

Posing with the Dream's mascot, Donald, in the atrium of the Dream.

We’ve been with each other through the ups and downs of relationships, and cheered each other on when we found love with our guys: he with Josh, me with Colin. One of the first things I would bring up with a new date was the relationship I had with Paul, and Colin had zero problems with that. Colin and Paul have a great relationship and always get along well.

Paul, me, and Vicky after Paul's USF graduation, December 2008.

Cheering on our Bulls as they beat West Virginia, 2010

We had a little too much fun tailgating, by the looks!

Finally a nice one :-)

Best buddies on the beach at the Polynesian, enjoying some cocktails on beach chairs and watching the fireworks over Cinderella Castle.

Recently, we have been each other’s support as we strive for a new goal: to run a half marathon! Our big goal is to run a “Coast to Coast Challenge” with Disney: you run a half marathon at DisneyLand and Disney World in the same calendar year and earn a nice medal. We ran our first 5k together in February 2012.

Katie, Paul, me, and Jenn after finishing the Royal Family 5k, February 2012

Our "fierce!" pose with our medals in front of Cinderella Castle after the race!

I am so thankful to have my first love still in my life.

This is my love letter to you, Paul. I hope our friendship continues to flourish and grow throughout our lives. I love you!